The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has sued the government over a new internet tax, which it says violates fundamental rights and freedoms.
In a petition filed last Friday, the LSK notes that freedoms of expression and association and the right to information have been violated.
The society claims that in the 2018 Finance Act, President Uhuru Kenyatta introduced new aspects including the taxation of internet data, and that these were passed through the National Assembly without being subjected to public participation.
“The president acted outside his mandate under Article 115(1)(b) by introducing new issues through his memorandum. By making recommendations on issues not canvassed in the earlier bill, the president circumvented the normal legislative process,” the petition states.
The LSK has asked the court to suspend the new tax and stop the government from implementing it.
The petitioner further argues that the introduction of a 15 percent tax on telephone and internet data services will lock a significant part of the population out of the internet, thereby aggravating marginalisation and discrimination.
“The internet is an enabler of all the rights guaranteed under the Bill of Rights. Universal access to it must be guaranteed and aggressively pursued,” states the petition.
“More than 250 government services are now offered exclusively over the internet. Communication from the State is also done online. Despite it being a necessity, a large population of Kenyans do not have access to the internet as they cannot afford it.
A government policy to increase the cost of such a basic necessity therefore discriminates against those without access to the internet on the basis of financial status and social origin.”
The Attorney-General, the National Assembly and the commissioner-general at the Kenya Revenue Authority have been named as respondents.
The government has faced intense criticism over harsh taxes outlined in the new budget, with citizens complaining that the cost of living will become too high once the new taxes come into effect.
It has defended itself saying that the steep taxes will fund the country’s development budget.
By Daily Nation